“We don’t do half sizes”

9 Jun

Two pairs of shoes recently died, in that irritating way they do, so I had the chance to experience the joy that is British shoe sizing not once, but twice. I had been looking about vaguely for replacements, as I knew they were on their way out, but it wasn’t until things reached a drastic stage that I actually had to march myself into a shoe shop with instructions not to come out until I had some new footwear. (The problem, you see, was that both dead pairs were staples of my shoe wardrobe – my only pair of trainers / plimsoles, and black flats.)

The shop I went to was Deichmans, but the problem I experienced there was not confined to them. My grave crime, you see, is that my feet are size six and a half. Ah, the half! I didn’t choose my shoe size, nor did I ask Britain to size shoes in such a way that fractions are necessary, but still when I ask for a pair of shoes in my size I get that look, as if I’m a kid who thinks ‘seven and three quarters’ is a legitimate age, and the words “we don’t do half sizes”.

This used to annoy me even before I lived on the Continent. If there’s enough of a difference in size for some shops to do half sizes, why can’t I ask for my size without scorn? It’s not as if everything that’s half is a failure to reach a whole; ask a musician what would happen if we abolished semitones.

Since living in Europe, though, and encountering European sizes, I get even more annoyed by half-sizedness prejudice. I take a size 40, for goodness sake – isn’t that a round enough number for you?

Even that comforting knowledge didn’t help me in Deichmans, though. Admittedly, I sometimes take a 39, and I’ve seen both 39 and 40 marked as the equivalent of 6.5. However, in Deichmans British sizes seemed to bear no relation to European ones, and in fact British sizes didn’t seem to bear much relation to British sizes, leaving me trying on sizes more or less as random – which, coincidentally, is what I had to do in Albania at first.

The end result is that I’ve got one pair in a 37 and the other in a 35 (!) – but not a 35 and a half, of course. That would just be silly.


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